[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
The Course’s Program
Studying, Practicing, and Extending Jesus’ New Meaning,
So that It Becomes the Only Meaning for You
Reading the Course slowly and intentionally
in order to learn the new meaning it teaches,
as the basis for practicing and extending that meaning.
Daily study: feeding your mind the meaning that you will practice and extend
• “Set yourself the goal of really studying for this course. There can be no doubt of the wisdom of this decision, for any student who wants to pass it.” (Jesus to Helen and Bill).
• Introduce structure, such as a reading schedule and daily study periods. Think in terms of reading at least a Text section or Workbook lesson each day.
• Read slowly and even repeatedly, paying attention to each word and thinking about what you read.
• Interpret carefully: Consciously say no to the ego’s distortions.
• Keep your head down: Be sensitive to immediate context rather than projecting your favorite themes onto each passage. Aim to learn something new.
• “Take this personally” (Jesus to Helen): Insert your name.
• Treat it as practical, rather than as an intellectual game. If a practice is given, do it.
• Review! The intention to learn is always attended by reviewing.
Dwelling on and applying a new meaning
in order to experience and internalize it,
and thus perceive everything through its lens.
Morning and evening quiet time: extended practice (5-30+ min.) to found the day on a mindset of peace.
• Wake with a thought of God on your mind.
• As soon as possible after waking (considering the need to have few distractions and to be reasonably ready) take your quiet time, alone in a quiet place.
• To prepare for your practice, you may want to spend time reading.
• The first phase of the quiet time is often an active phase of applying ideas to the specifics of your life. Another good active beginning is Course-based prayer (see Part II of the Workbook).
• This prepares you for a longer, receptive phase, usually meditation.
• Meditation in the Course is all about holding a single-minded focus on your goal, with few words, one word, or no words, watching for mind-wandering and bringing your mind back every time, and holding a heightened sense of confidence and desire, along with a sense of the importance and holiness of what you are doing.
• “Do not let the time be less than meets your deepest need” (W-pI.193.10:6).
• Make sure you have an idea to practice for that day, which will become the central pole of your day. (If you are doing the Workbook, it provides that.)
• Set your goal for the day of really learning that idea. Because of this goal, consider it a day of special value and even “a time for special celebration” (W-pI.75.9:2).
• Do not make an idol of your morning routine (M-16.2:5). Your satisfaction comes from the effectiveness of your quiet time, not from the mere fact that you did it.
• You should start the day over if you start it without God (M-16.2:7).
• In the evening, as close to bedtime as is feasible (considering the need to not be drowsy), take your evening quiet time, a mirror of the morning time, a final reaffirmation of the lesson and preparation both for sleep and for the next day.
• Give the time gladly, in gratitude and joy. See the entire day as preparation for this time.
• Dedicate your sleep to God. Bring your idea with you into your sleep.
Hourly remembrance: a few moments on the hour spent renewing the peace with which you began the day
• This can take many forms. For example:
o Repeat the idea (or a longer version of it) and allow your mind to rest a few moments in silence and peace.
o Thank God “for all the gifts He gave us in the [hour] gone by” and ask “what He would have us do the hour that is yet to come” (W-pI.153.17:2).
o Apply the idea to the upsets of the previous hour, “so that the next one is free of the one before” (W-pI.193.12:2).
• Take what time you can, when you can—ideally, between 2 and 5 minutes. When you cannot (or will not) do more, at least repeat the idea.
• Give the time gladly: “be thankful and lay down all earthly tasks, all little thoughts and limited ideas, and spend a happy time again with Him” (W-pI.98.11:1).
• “Throughout the hour, let your time be spent in happy preparation [through practice] for the next five minutes you will spend again with Him” (W-pI.98.10:1).
• Remember the benefits: you give a few minutes in return for everything. “Sometimes a thousand years or more are saved” (W-pI.97.3:2). Your gift is used to heal minds around the world.
• Forgive yourself for your lapses (no matter how long) so that you can put them behind you and return immediately to practicing (W-pI.95.7-10).
• Learn to distinguish situations in which a practice period is not feasible “from those that you establish to uphold a camouflage for your unwillingness” (W-pI.rIII.In.3:4). For the second kind of situation only, do make up the practice periods you missed.
• When you feel a pull to do something else instead, realize you’d be worshipping false gods that “gave you nothing. But your practicing can offer everything to you” (W-pI.rIII.4:4-5).
Frequent reminders: briefly repeating the idea for the day in order to experience its meaning
• Repeat the idea as often as possible, about 4 or 5 times an hour, allowing no long gaps.
• “Set a definite time interval for using the idea when you wake or shortly afterwards, and attempt to adhere to it throughout the day” (W-pI.27.3:4).
• When you miss, don’t be disturbed, just get back to your schedule (W-pI.27.4:4-5).
• Repeat the words slowly. “Hold these words in full awareness” (W-pI.193.6:4) and think about what they mean.
• Repeat them with sincerity (mean them) and certainty, remembering their power and importance.
• Repeat them happily, as a joyful reminder, as “glad tidings of your release” (W-pI.75.5:3).
• After repeating them, rest a moment in silence, opening your mind to an experience of their meaning.
• When necessary, repeat the idea with eyes open. This can be done “even if you are engaged in conversation” (W-pI.27.3:5).
• When possible, take a minute or so, sit quietly, close your eyes, and slowly repeat the idea several times, perhaps adding your own additional thoughts.
Response to temptation: protecting your peace by repeating the idea in response to upsets
• Have the idea at the ready. After your frequent reminders, “try to keep the thought with you” (W-pI.rIII.In.10:6).
• Be constantly vigilant for any kind of disturbance of your peace.
• Be sure to respond to each one immediately by repeating today’s idea with certainty, seeing it as a mighty force, applying it specifically to your upset, and perhaps adding your own related thoughts.
• Gather a “problem-solving repertoire” (W-pI.194.6:2)—a list of ideas you find useful for response to temptation.
• This must become a habit—“the happy habit of response to all temptation” (T-31.VIII.5:1).
Extending a new meaning to others
in the form of expressions of love,
which heal them and strengthen the new meaning in your own mind.
Asking for guidance: turning to the Holy Spirit for all decisions
• Ask for guidance at the beginning of the day, at the beginning of each hour, and whenever it is feasible to do so, knowing that if you do, “wisdom will be given you when you need it” (M-29.5:8). “Failure to ask for guidance [is] a sign of fear” (Jesus to Helen and Bill).
• Suspend judgment about the situation and then ask for guidance with confidence and desire. Then listen in patience, confidence, deep silence, and open-mindedness.
• Value all forms of receiving: words, feeling/sensing/knowing, images, impulses, dreams, coincidences.
• Do not evaluate what you hear “in terms of [your] own convenience” (Jesus to Bill and Helen), but do exercise discernment to see if what you hear has the marks of coming from a wisdom beyond your own.
• Follow the guidance you receive. “Follow it without judging it” (Jesus to Helen and Bill).
• Remember that asking will make possible a happy day.
• When you “feel yourself unwilling to sit by and ask” (T-30.I.5:3), admit that your day has gone off track. Reason yourself back by realizing you have nothing to lose by asking and everything to gain.
• Strive to make asking a habit, “until the habit of asking becomes involuntary” (Jesus to Helen).
Giving miracles: expressing love to others in order to heal them and to receive the gift you gave
• Hold yourself ready at all times (through the practice). Hold a vision of the Christ in others.
• Notice another’s need and your impulse to respond.
• Ask “What should I do for him, Your holy Son?” (S-2.III.5:1).
• Perform the behavior as a way of conveying to the other person his or her “inestimable value” (T-7.VII.7:3) and equality with you.
• “Give gladly” (W-pI.187.5:1), realizing this is “the only means by which you can receive” (W-pI.105.3:2).
• Trust that the other person receives your gift, and that the entire Sonship does as well.
• Accept gratitude from the receiver (if offered) and let it heal you. Let yourself feel your own gratitude and God’s gratitude.
• See giving miracles as the purpose of the day. “Each day should be devoted to miracles” (T-1.I.15:1).
• This must become a habit: “Miracles are habits, and should be involuntary” (T-1.I.5:1).